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History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925
John C. Hoxie

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[This information is from Vol. IV, pp. 122-124 of History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, edited by Nelson Greene (Chicago: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1925). It is in the Reference collection of the Schenectady County Public Library at R 974.7 G81h. This online edition includes lists of portraits, maps and illustrations. As noted by Paul Keesler in his article, "The Much Maligned Mr. Greene," some information in this book has been superseded by later research or was provided incorrectly by local sources.]

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The demise of John C. Hoxie, on the 15th of July, 1924, at the ripe age of eighty years, deprived Utica of one of those citizens whose lives of quiet devotion to duty constitute the foundation of much of the material prosperity of the communities in which they reside. For forty-four years he was a member of the well known firm of Griffin & Hoxie, wholesale grocers, and the record of no business man of the city has stood in larger measure as a synonym for honor and integrity. He had no advantages to aid him at the outset of his career and his success was achieved solely through his own efforts and strength of character. Preeminently public-spirited, he was foremost in every worthy civic project, and his efforts were of a most practical character, the mature judgment of an able business man being manifest in all of his opinions concerning the best methods of improving the city along lines of material, intellectual and moral progress and industrial growth. He rendered valiant service to the Union in the dark days of the Civil war and his life was an inspiring example of good citizenship.

Mr. Hoxie was a member of one of the honored pioneer families of Otsego county, New York, and was born February 9, 1844. The Hoxie family came originally from Rhode Island. In 1791 Stephen Hoxie came to New York state in company with several others, for the purpose of selecting a site where a number of Rhode Island neighbors could secure tracts of land for settlement. They bought thirteen lots at fifty cents an acre, two miles below West Edmeston, in the Unadilla valley, where Leonardsville was afterward located. The deed for Stephen Hoxie's lot was filed May 3, 1781. His sons, John and Solomon, left the old home in Rhode Island and remained on their father's land during that fall and winter, clearing the tract, while they also engaged in trapping. John Hoxie, the grandfather of the subject of this sketch, was a successful trapper and secured enough beaver to pay for fifty acres of land, which he purchased from his father. Another family that arrived in the valley at that time was the Browns and in the summer of 1792 both families built homes, thus founding the settlement. Nelson, a son of John Hoxie, was also an agriculturist and married Harriet Clark, member of a prominent family of Brookfield.

They were the parents of John C. Hoxie, who aided his father in the cultivation of the home farm and obtained his education in the district schools. He speculated in cattle to some extent and subsequently moved with the family to Ontario, Wayne county. There on June 22, 1862, he enlisted for service in the Civil war, joining the One Hundred and Thirty-eighth New York Infantry. The regiment was assigned to fortifications in the vicinity of Washington and after a time Mr. Hoxie was detailed to the quartermaster department, in charge of transportation. On April 4, 1864, he was transferred to the signal service at Georgetown, where he remained until July, when with eleven others he was detailed to guard President Lincoln's summer home, four miles from Washington, where the president usually spent about four evenings a week. Some members of the guard were posted in the high signal tower which stood in front of the house, while others patrolled the grounds. The tower had a stairway and was one hundred and fourteen feet in height. The president often climbed to the top of the tower and sat with the watchers. He seemed greatly to enjoy the lights and signals to be observed in the vast panorama spread out before them. The Confederate troops were pressing upon Washington at that time in an effort to capture the capitol and the president, but Mr. Hoxie said that Lincoln never seemed to worry about his own safety, his mind being occupied with thoughts concerning the safety of the Union army, and he greatly deplored the loss of life. Late in November, 1864, Mr. Hoxie was ordered to report to General Slocum at Fort Fisher. He went to Raleigh and all along the coast and was then detailed to Washington. He was appointed sergeant and had command of six hundred men. He was mustered out in July, 1865, at the close of the war, with a fine military record to his credit.

Mr. Hoxie returned to his home and during the following year continued his studies in the school at West Winfield. In 1867 he went to West Virginia, but conditions in that state were not to his liking and he resumed the task of operating the old homestead in association with his father. He spent some time in traveling through Pennsylvania, selling cheese, tobacco and other commodities. In October, 1872, he married Miss Elizabeth Brown of Leonardsville, and thus united two of the pioneer families of the Unadilla valley. Mr. and Mrs. Hoxie established their home in Utica and he secured a position as traveling salesman with Griffith & Company, wholesale grocers, entering the service of Daniel Crouse in a similar capacity two years later. He was thus employed for two years and on the expiration of that period became a member of the firm of Griffith & Company, with which he was connected for seven years. On March 1, 1879, he formed a partnership with Charles A. Griffin and they purchased the business of Griffith & Company, conducting it under the name of Griffin & Hoxie for nearly a half century. At first it was necessary for both partners to do some of the traveling for the house and it was effectively and thoroughly performed. They were in perfect accord, the efforts of the one ably supplementing and rounding out the labors of the other, and there existed between them a bond of relationship which transcended the cold conventionalities of business life, uniting them by the strongest ties of friendship. For a number of years there were no papers or writing between the partners. They agreed to go into the business and work, and if there was anything at the end of the year to be divided, it was to be apportioned between them. Each had a certain part of the business to attend to and the utmost harmony and good will prevailed at all times. When fire destroyed their establishment on Liberty street they purchased the old Peckham salesrooms and office on Catharine street and set about the task of rebuilding. Theirs was one of the oldest and largest wholesale grocery houses in the city and throughout the period of its existence the firm bore an unassailable reputation for business integrity and reliability. In July, 1923, on the seventy-ninth anniversary of the founding of the original grocery firm of John Griffiths, Mr. Hoxie retired from the business, at which time a reorganization took place.

While never neglectful of his mercantile interests, which he managed with notable wisdom and efficiency, Mr. Hoxie also devoted a large share of his attention to public affairs and rendered valuable service to his community. He was particularly interested in the building of the Unadilla Valley Railroad, for he knew that it would open to Utica a section of rich country which had been seriously neglected in the trade of this city. Also, in earlier years, he was very anxious to have the city secure its own water supply and endeavored to arouse interest in the project. He was one of the influential members of the Chamber of Commerce and served for several years as its president. He was often in consultation with the late Thomas R. Proctor in his park development plans and the progress and improvement of his city was a matter in which he took much personal pride.

In October, 1872, Mr. Hoxie was married to Miss Elizabeth Brown, whose parents were pioneer settlers of Leonardsville. To this union was born a daughter: Mabel, who is the only member of the family now living in Utica and for many years was her father's devoted companion. Mr. Hoxie was a Baptist in religious faith and an earnest, faithful member of the Baptist Tabernacle. For twenty-five years he was chairman of the board of trustees, serving at the time the great organ was installed and during the construction of the Thorn Memorial Chapel. He was a life member of the Oneida Historical Society and also belonged to the Fort Schuyler Club, the Beaver River Club, the Oriental Masonic Club, the Yahnundasis Golf Club and the Oneida County Veterans Association. He often visited the Adirondacks and during his later years spent a considerable part of each winter in Southern Pines, North Carolina. Mr. Hoxie had a keen appreciation of humor, a cheerful, pleasant disposition and was a most desirable companion. He possessed that sense of honor which is the vital essence of the gentleman and his many admirable qualities of mind and heart made him a citizen beloved.

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